Shakespeare tied cutlery
to the ankles of his kings — their demons
at home to noisy prologues.
The poet Allen Tate and I
were born in the same town, fifty years
apart — he preferred an Antebellum world.
Engineering a snub to Langston Hughes,
he said a reception for Hughes would be like
dining with his Black cook.
His bookshelves heaved with gongs,
and plaques, a gift for terza rima though
no excuse for squibs on White Supremacy.
He thought lynching Blacks a sign
of ineffectual elite — White, that is, a problem
solved by accepting one race overall.
“The Ode to the Confederate Dead”
I read at school — segregated rooms still
hung with portraits of Lee and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.
His biography of Jefferson Davis
shared the Southern legacy
of White Jesus.
He married and divorced the same woman
twice, and slept with Stephen Spender’s wife —
said Blacks lacked good taste and decency.
Homeric heroes are at one
with elemental forces, their deaths
like rainfall on the plains of Troy...
their plumes and breastplates courting pride
and the gods’ envy, the final scenes
Piped to an oxygen cylinder, Tate died
of emphysema, on the wall a photo
of T.S. Eliot, the one he called Master.
If you have any thoughts about this poem, Estill
Pollock would be pleased to hear them